musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "The Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments Vol. 5"

La Stagione Frankfurt
Dir: Michael Schneider

rec: March 20 - 22, 2016, Magdeburg, Konzerthalle Georg Philipp Telemann
CPO - 555 082-2 (© 2017) (70'03")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Concert à neuf parties for piccolo, transverse flute, oboe, chalumeau, strings and 2 double basses in G 'Grillensinfonie' (TWV 50,1); Concerto for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings and bc in g minor (TWV 53.g1); Concerto for violin, 2 transverse flutes, 2 oboes, 2 horns/2 trumpets, timpani, strings and bc in F (TWV 51,F4)a; Divertimento for 2 horns, 2 transverse flutes, strings and bc in E flat (TWV 50,21); Sonata for trumpet, strings and bc in D (TWV 44,1)

Claire Garde, piccolo, transverse flute; Karl Kaiser, transverse flute; Hans Peter Westermann, Wolfgang Dey, oboe; Christopher Woods, chalumeau; Marita Schaar, bassoon; Stephan Katte, Jörg Schulteß, horn; Hans Martin Rux, Almut Rux, trumpet; Christine Busch (soloa), Judith Freise, Bettina von Dombois, Katrin Ebert, Fan Li, violin; Hongxia Cui, Hajo Bäß, violin, viola; Klaus Bundies, Johanna Brückner, viola; Markus Möllenbeck, Annette Schneider, cello; Matthias Scholz, Dane Roberts, double bass; Sabine Bauer, harpsichord; Mathias Müller, timpani

The fifth instalment of the intriguing series of "grand concertos" by Telemann includes some remarkable pieces. They span about the entire period of Telemann's career, and several of the compositions performed here have a form, which one doesn't expect from a genre, known as 'concerto'. But, then, we are talking here about Telemann, who never was afraid to break fresh ground.

The Sonata in D and the Concerto in g minor both belong among the category of the ripieno concerto. This means that neither of the instruments participating gets involved in a real solo part. The Sonata in D (TWV 44,1) has been preserved in a copy of Telemann's friend and colleague Christoph Graupner; the title 'sonata' is his; he also added the indication se piace to the trumpet part. This means that, at least in his opinion, it could be omitted. And indeed, the trumpet has no solo episodes; in the slow middle movement it keeps silent anyway, as brass instruments in baroque concertos usually did. In this movement the first violin has an ornamented part. The Concerto in g minor (TWV 53,g1) is listed among the concertos with three solo instruments in the Telemann catalogue, but the two oboes and the bassoon have no extended solo parts. The scoring is a clear reference to the French style. The addition of the second viola part can also be interpreted as such, although the writing in five parts was very common across Europe in the 17th century, including Germany and Italy. This concerto comes in five movements; the first has the structure of a French overture, with a slow tempo (grave et détaché) and dotted rhythms. The third movement is called en loure and the fourth is a grave, which is dominatingly chordal and includes episodes in which first oboe and first violin have solo passages. There are also Italian elements, such as the second movement (allegro), which has the form of a fugue, as was common in sonate da chiesa.

These two pieces are considered early works; the latter piece was in the baggage of Johann Samuel Endler, when he moved from Leipzig to Darmstadt in 1722. It is assumed that the Concerto in F (TWV 51,F4) was written around 1750. In the Telemann catalogue it is ranked among the violin concertos, but in fact it is a hybrid work, a mixture of solo concerto and orchestral suite. The scoring of the orchestra is remarkable: two transverse flutes, two oboes, two horns (in one of the movements with two trumpets as alternatives), timpani, strings and bc. It is divided into seven movements; the violin has a solo role in some of them, but not in all. The first movement is the longest, and here the violin has the most extended solo part, including a cadenza at the end, se piace. This movement is followed by one, called Corsicana; after an allegrezza the scherzo includes again a substantial solo part for the violin and ends with a written-out cadenza. The next movement has no title, but is a gigue en rondeau. For the ensuing polacca Telemann indicated the trumpets as alternatives for the horns; that is the way this movement is played here. They are also involved in the closing minuetto; this seems to be the decision of Michael Schneider, as the score here does not mention the trumpets as alternatives. This concerto has been preserved in Dresden, and therefore it is assumed that Telemann has written it for the court chapel and its concertmaster, Johann Georg Pisendel. The prominent role of the horns also points in this direction, as the court chapel had some virtuosos on this instrument in its ranks.

They also take a key role in the piece, which opens this disc, the Divertimento in E flat (TWV 50,21). It is called La Chasse, and that indicates what this piece is about. It is a late composition and is part of a collection of ten works, which Telemann in 1766 sent to Landgrave Ludwig VIII of Hesse-Darmstadt. He was a fanatical hunter, and therefore a piece of this kind, with a prominent role for the horns - traditionally associated with hunting - was most appropriate. This whole work has some similarities with the orchestral suites; like some of them most movements are of a descriptive nature. The piece opens with an allegro, then we hear a movement, called Réveille, followed by La conversation à la table, Chasse, Repos and Retraite. In this work two transverse flutes are used as a counterbalance for the horns.

Another late work is the Concert à neuf parties, also known as Grillensinfonie. It is scored for piccolo flute, transverse flute, oboe, chalumeau, two double basses, strings and bc. The chalumeau was invented at the end of the 17th century and enjoyed a relatively short bloom, until it was overshadowed by the clarinet. Like Graupner, Telemann was one of the main promoters of this instrument. It attests to Telemann's willingness to break fresh ground, and so is his inclusion of parts for two double basses. They have extended solo episodes in the opening movement. Equally unusual is the role of the piccolo. In the closing movement the influence of folk music from Poland and Moravia manifests itself.

This disc once again is an impressive demonstration of Telemann's creativity, which didn't leave him in his old age, as the late pieces show. He was not only the most prolific, but also the most innovative composer of his time. This disc includes five pieces, and not one of them is similar to the other. All of them have something special, either in content or in instrumentation or in their texture.

The performances in this series are generally pretty good, but not always as good as they could be. La Stagione Frankfurt is a solid ensemble, but not the most imaginative and colourful. Often I wonder, what the former Musica antiqua Köln would have made of this stuff. I was pretty pleased with Vol. 4, but here I several times longed for a more dynamic and more differentiated interpretation. This series is admirable, but certainly not the last word on the matter. One has to hope that discs like these encourage other ensembles to explore the large corpus of concertos in Telemann's oeuvre.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

La Stagione Frankfurt

CD Reviews